Sharon Hull, This Week in the Garden | Don’t wait to add color, get warm season veggies in the ground

Do you love springtime but feel overwhelmed with the seemingly endless list of tasks begging for your attention? You are not alone. So much to do: keep weeds under control, irrigate, dead-head, fertilize, replace dead or lackluster plants with new material. Perhaps we all need to hear again the old saying “Don’t forget to smell the roses.”

Set aside time to relax and soak up the sight of the sunlight reflecting on shiny leaves, morning droplets of dew on the petals, the calls of the nesting birds, the many fragrances of the flowers.  As you glory in your spring-time garden, notice where you might want more color, where a focal point would add punch, where a plant should be replaced for failure to thrive. If you decide that some color is what’s needed, here are a few suggestions.

Dahlias can be a spectacular source of summertime color in sunny areas. They are easy to grow and they can be very dependable. They are also fabulous flowers for using in arrangements.

These plants love our climate, and if you have well-draining soil, you need only work in a generous basket of well-rotted compost or other organic matter and some organic fertilizer to get reliable bloom. Dahlias come in a startling array of hues and forms. Bright hot colors, such as red, orange and yellow are available in short compact bedding plants as well as the tall giant-flowered types. Soft pastels and deep reds and purples are also available in all forms and sizes, so you are sure to find plants to suit your needs. Flower forms are varied, and include anemone, collarette, orchid, peony, single, ball, waterlily and cactus. The plants add great pizzazz to a garden. If you regularly remove spent flowers, dahlias will bloom far into autumn.

If your garden is shady, tuberous begonias and fuchsias can fill the dramatic flower color niche.  We are so fortunate to be in the right climate for these lovely plants: they love our cool summers.  In tuberous begonias, flower colors run the gamut from white, through pinks, into reds yellows and oranges, while fuchsias tend to be pink, red, lavender and white. Both plants like humus-rich rapidly draining soil. Keep soil moist but not soggy, and apply a liquid fertilizer at half strength about every other week to keep blooms coming. Be sure to site fuchsias where you can watch the hummingbirds that the flowers will attract. And if you have problems with distorted leaves and flowers on fuchsias, the dreaded fuchsia mite has struck. There is no treatment for the mites that won’t also poison hummingbirds so in future, select from the many species fuchsias rather than hybrids since most species-types are mite resistant.

It is time to get all warm season veggies in the ground if you haven’t already done so. Container-grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and all those delicious summer treasures will soon become in short supply in the garden centers. If you want pumpkins in time for Halloween, they must go in immediately. Cucumbers and squash are so fast that you can still plant seed of those plants, but it is rapidly becoming too late in the season to seed tomatoes and peppers. If you garden inland from the coast, you can grow the long season beefsteak tomato types and antique varieties, but get plants in immediately so the 80-90 day growing season requirements will be met.

And here is a strong word of warning: some gardeners are already reporting signs of the dreaded tomato blights on their plants so don’t delay starting your organic fungicide program, no matter how many spring tasks are yammering for your time and attention.

Spray tomato plants when first set out with one of the organic fungicides, like Revitalize, and continue the program throughout the summer according to package instructions. Once blight infests your plants, it is very difficult to eradicate; it is much easier and more effective to prevent the disease from gaining access, starting right now!

Garden tips are provided courtesy of horticulturist Sharon Hull of the San Lorenzo Garden Center. Contact her at 831423-0223. 

Contributed by local news sources

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